Rebecca is an adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s 1938 novel of the same name, following a young woman’s whirlwind romance and her battle to rid her new marriage and home of the shadow of her husband’s first wife.
Rebecca as a novel is a classic and a book I very much enjoyed, and whilst I’ve never seen the Hitchcock adaptation, it’s often referred to as a fairly legendary classic too. However, I’m afraid to say the same cannot be said about this new version. The basic plot and story are present, although rather frustratingly the ending has been extended unnecessarily, and it has not been executed very well.
The trailer made this look quite sinister and spooky, which is quite right when the original novel is a gothic horror with aspects of a ghost story thrown in. However, this film turns out to be nothing of the sort. It’s more of a romantic drama with a hint of thriller thrown in – the gothic horror ghost story is nowhere to be seen and neither is any form of intrigue or suspense. In fact, I’d be so bold as to say this is just outright dull, and even the campy over the top sinister vibes from Kristin Scott Thomas’s housekeeper Mrs Danvers are laughable at best. The most interesting part of this was the opening scene with its sinister score but this just didn’t carry through to the rest of the film.
Sadly the cast doesn’t fare very well in this either. Lily James is a great actor, but her version of the new wife is too mousy and timid and you wonder what on earth Maxim ever sees in her. The character herself is very frustrating and irksome as she’s far too naïve and sweet. And Armie Hammer is miscast as Maxim De Winter himself. He looks the part, dashing and handsome, but he’s lacking in the intrigue, charm and secrecy that you’d expect this character to have. He’s also missing the age gap that is rather notable in the book.
The cinematography in this is rather concerning. The scenes in Monte Carlo are far too colourful and garish and they just look out of place, even more so for something that is meant to be a gothic horror. I’m unsure of why this has been done, other than to show a striking difference between Monte Carlo and Maxim’s Cornish home of Manderley. In fact, what is most concerning about this film is why Ben Wheatley wanted to direct it. By far the biggest shock of this film was finding out Wheatley, of Kill List and Sightseers fame, had directed it. Wheatley is known for psychological dark (and often funny) thrillers and there is nothing of his style to be seen in this film at all. Which is a shame, as I think a little more of his dark style would’ve propelled this film into more than just a sub-par drama.
Overall this a very disappointing and long winded adaptation of a classic novel. Whilst there are a few decent scenes and a good, if not out of character, performance from Lily James, these are nowhere near enough to save this from being a bit of a bore.
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